Kern Wildenthal, M.D., PhD., is president of the Children’s Medical Center Foundation, the nation’s fifth largest, not-for-profit pediatric hospital in the United States. Dr. Wildenthal also holds an honorary appointment as President Emeritus of UT Southwestern Medical Center, where he served as president from 1986 until 2008.
A native Texan, Dr. Wildenthal has combined careers in institutional administration, clinical medicine, education, biomedical research, and philanthropic leadership. He served as the dean of the medical school at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for six years and graduate school dean for four, before becoming the institution’s president.
Dr. Wildenthal was president of UT Southwestern for 22 years, the longest tenured presidency at a Texas state medical school. During Dr. Wildenthal’s time as president, UT Southwestern emerged as one of the leading medical institutions in the world. Four faculty members won Nobel Prizes, endowments rose from $40 million to $1.4 billion, and the institution grew more than 5 times in size.
Born in San Marcos, Texas, Dr. Wildenthal attended Sul Ross College in Alpine, where he earned a B.A. in English literature before being accepted in UT Southwestern Medical School in 1960 at the age of 18. After receiving his M.D. degree in 1964, Dr. Wildenthal became an intern in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital in New York and then moved to a residency at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. In 1966, he became a postdoctoral fellow in cardiology at UT Southwestern and a year later joined the National Heart Institute in Bethesda, Maryland as a guest scientist.
In the late sixties, Dr. Wildenthal became a Special Research Fellow and visiting member of the scientific staff at Strangeways Research Laboratory in Cambridge, England. He received a Ph.D. in cell physiology from the University of Cambridge in 1970.
Dr. Wildenthal returned to Dallas in 1970 to join the UT Southwestern faculty and became the school’s youngest full professor in 1975. Later that year he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and returned to Cambridge for twelve months as a visiting scientist. Dr. Wildenthal’s research on cardiac function garnered wide attention and led to his election to the prestigious American Society for Clinical Investigation in 1974. Later in that decade, he received international notice when he devised a novel and effective way for treating patients with “runaway” heartbeats.
Dr. Wildenthal has received numerous honors over his career including election into the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He was awarded honorary Doctor of Science degrees by Southern Methodist University and Austin College in 2006 and 2010, respectively. In 2008 he was elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame, the only leader of a non-profit organization ever to be so honored. He has published more than 120 scientific papers in basic research and clinical cardiology. He has been a visiting professor and conference organizer in over 20 different countries.
In Dallas, Dr. Wildenthal has served on the boards of directors of the Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Foundation, Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, Dallas Citizens Council, Dallas Assembly, and The Science Place, as well as several other foundation and corporate boards.
Dr. Wildenthal and his wife, Marnie, have two daughters and five grandchildren.